I work in academia, which in theory not just tolerates but encourages freedom of thought, speech, and expression. In practice, however, it's quite a different story. Here are two recent examples.
The first is from the Huffington Post. I'm as surprised as you are that I'm not only posting something from HuffPo, but that I agree with it.
On Sept. 12, 2011, (University of Wisconsin - Stout) theater professor James Miller posted this tribute to the captain of the starboat Serenity, Malcolm "Mal" Reynolds, from the beloved and short-lived sci-fi series Firefly, on his office door:
I don't know anything about Firefly. It was a 'space western' TV series that ran on Fox a few years back and evidently attained a cult-like following in the years since. Given that Professor Miller teaches theater, it seems reasonable that he would have some sort of theatrical poster on his office door.
Rather than ask what the poster meant, the campus police stepped in. Professor Miller was contacted by Lisa A. Walter, the Chief of Police/Director of Parking Services, after she removed the poster and informed him that "it is unacceptable to have postings such as this that refer to killing." She also warned the astounded professor that any future such posts would be removed and would cause him to be charged with "disorderly conduct."
Miller rightly deduced that this was an insane overreaction. The Constitution protects speech far, far harsher than a quip from Firefly. It seemed that someone at the college either had an axe to grind or was just power tripping at Miller's expense.
So, on Sept. 16th he posted this:
... the university interpreted Professor Miller's protest as being essentially pro-fascist and advocating violence.Say what?!? How on earth does anyone with a modicum of intelligence and common sense interpret this poster as being "pro-facist and advocating violence?" Oh wait - it's administrators and lawyers. So much for intelligence and common sense.
The police tore down this poster, too, with Chief Walter claiming this time that the problem was that the poster "depicts violence and mentions violence or death." She went on to say that "it is believed that this posting also has a reasonable expectation that it will cause a material and/or substantial disruption of school activities and/or be constituted as a threat." Walter also told Miller he had been reported to the "threat assessment team.""Threat assessment team?" For putting up a poster that chastises the administration? That sounds like something straight out of George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four.
Tuesday evening Chancellor Sorensen, Provost Julie Furst-Bowe and Vice Chancellor Ed Nieskes issued a statement to all faculty and staff passionately standing by their decision in this case. Sorensen and his fellow administrators claimed that the posters were removed because their top lawyers believed they "constituted an implied threat of violence." Further highlighting the deep denial of the top administration at UW-Stout, the email concluded, "This was not an act of censorship. This was an act of sensitivity to and care for our shared community, and was intended to maintain a campus climate in which everyone can feel welcome, safe and secure."Get that last part? It's not censorship, it's 'sensitivity.' That just smacks of Newspeak, again a reference from Nineteen Eighty-Four. And notice who issued the statement - administrators and lawyers.
I sincerely hope Professor Miller himself gets a good lawyer and sues the crap out of the university. (BTW, where's the ACLU...?)
The second recent example of academic repression of those challenging the prevailing mindset is the announcement by Professor Christian Kobus that he is ending his conservative blog due to pressure from his university.
This blog started in resistance to the bailouts, overspending, the subversion of the US Constitution by the ruling class, and then the march of radical liberalism after the election of Obama. To that end, many of us bloggers expanded our spheres of influence through writing and made a small difference. And the tea party formed. And liberalism is being beat back. That will not end.In other words, he prefers eating regularly to blogging. So do I.
However, this blog must. I like blogging, but I love my day job.
The common thread linking Professors Miller and Kobus is the intolerance of people in power at academic institutions for anyone who thinks differently than they do, and who dare oppose them. I've run up against this as well, and suffered serious career repercussions. In fact, that's one of the reasons I left the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) for my present position. I won't go into details, but suffice it to say that the dean of the business school at UTSA was a member of the Clinton administration, and the university's president has been appointed to an obama commission on hispanic education. Needless to say, my political opinions differ from theirs.
I expect to be able to freely and openly express my opinions and beliefs without fear of repercussion - once I retire...